Why Is a Former GOP House Leader with a Gun Like an Abusive Christian Father?

On Tuesday night, the Washington Post published a story detailing the extraordinary discord within FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C. advocacy organization affiliated with the Republican Party.

On September 4th, former House Majority Leader, corporate lobbyist, and FreedomWorks founder Dick Armey:

… walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

Dick Armey

Armey’s “coup” lasted six days until a settlement was reached whereby Richard J. Stephenson, “a reclusive Illinois millionaire” and director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to make payments of $400,000 per year to Armey in exchange for Armey’s immediate departure from the organization.

Over the course of Barack Obama‘s first term, FreedomWorks presented itself as standard bearer of the “Tea Party.” They partnered regularly with the likes of Glenn Beck and Breitbart.com, whipping up the angry passions of low-information, lower-class Christians and others who chronically mistrust the “Mainstream Media.” This gave the veneer of populist support to a political agenda designed to fortify the power and wealth of the “Business Community” and “Job Creators” responsible for underwriting FreedomWorks’ activities.

In reporting on the “Conservative Movement,” one often finds that political elites of Armey’s ilk harbor bald contempt for the God-fearing country folk whom they systematically manipulate into voting Republican. Indeed, if you are willing to outright deceive people in order to advance your own self-interest, you must not have very much respect for those people. Dick Armey and company are well-aware of Glenn Beck’s noxious lunacy, but choose to partner with him anyway because their ultimate aim is to further enrich their clients, not promote rational discourse or a healthy body politic.

I don’t know how Armey personally feels about ordinary right-wing Christian voters, but he does apparently share something broadly in common with them: a predilection to use violence to maintain “order.” By storming into that office in the middle of a workday, Armey presumably intended not just to seize control of FreedomWorks, but to inflict pain and humiliation on his enemies within the organization. Armey might justify this use of force by maintaining that the cause was just. Similarly, a Christian who spanks his daughter or beats his wife might justify that behavior on the ground that God expects submission in the household, and when the patriarch is defied, familial hierarchies break down. The Christian thus has the duty to use violence to restore order and reassert his authority by inflicting pain and humiliation.

This was the authoritarian mindset at work when Armey staged the coup. For what he might lack in direct cultural affinity with economically-despondent Bible Belt zealots, Armey makes up with his cruel, violent approach to conflict-resolution.

About michaeltracey

Journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow me on Twitter at @mtracey.


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